14 April 2024

One in three adults in Europe does not do enough sport, warns WHO

2 min read

In 2016, 35.4% of adults in the 27 EU Member States were insufficiently active, according to the UN health agency.

Nearly one in three adults in the European Union does not do enough sport, said a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday 17 February. In 2016, 35.4% of adults in the 27 EU Member States were insufficiently active, according to the WHO, which recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. Almost half (45%) report that they never exercise or play sports.

Low levels of physical activity are also common among adolescents, especially girls: only 17.6% of boys and 9.6% of girls report at least one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day, a WHO recommendation. The situation does not improve with age: only a quarter of the over-55s play a sport or exercise at least once a week.

Women are also less active than men. Socioeconomic status also influences physical activity: only 24% of people who declare themselves to be working class say they exercise at least once a week, compared with 51% of people in more affluent social categories.

The pandemic has made more than half of Europeans less active
The Covid-19 pandemic has made the situation even worse. While the confinements pushed some adults to do more sport, the opposite happened for most. More than half of Europeans have reduced their activity and only 7% plan to be more active once the pandemic is over, the study says.

If everyone met the WHO’s recommended activity levels, more than 10 000 premature deaths of people aged 30-70 could be prevented each year. Life expectancy would increase by 7.5 months for those who are insufficiently active. In addition, EU Member States would save 0.6% of their health budgets, the report says.